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Mom looks out for lion cubs during their first meeting with dad

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2010; 10:37 PM

It was father's day last week in the lion house at the National Zoo, but that great roar did not come from where you might think.

Luke the lion met for the first time on Wednesday with the seven cubs of his that were born earlier this year to two female lions, Naba and Shera.

It was neither the cubs nor their dad who gave the huge roar, the zoo's watchers said.

It was Naba, showing her protective instinct. Twice, according to the zoo, she saw a need to get between Luke and a cub. And each time, the zoo said, she "let out an absolutely deafening roar."

It was not clear how far beyond the confines of the lions' home the roars were heard on Wednesday. It could not be determined what effect they had beyond the zoo's bounds. But the zoo said they had an effect in the lions' den.

"It sent Luke immediately onto his back in a submissive posture," the zoo reported.

Whatever sort of domestic arrangements might prevail in other lion communities, it seemed clear that off Connecticut Avenue, a female rules.

"Naba is clearly the dominant animal in this pride," the zoo said in a statement, "and it appears that Luke sees and respects that."

After a time, the zoo said, all 10 lions sat relaxing in one stall. The animals spent about 35 minutes together and "looked great," the zoo said.

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